In the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining rights last month, I wrote:
If Republicans thought the results of the 2010 election were a mandate to attack unions, public opinion polls indicate they grossly miscalculated. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Republicans, in Wisconsin and probably elsewhere, will pay a political price for this– in recall elections and in the 2012 general election. Riled-up union members are a potent political force– something that perhaps the GOP has forgotten in recent years.
If anyone believed this was a politically-motivated opinion rather than a statement of simple fact, consider two posts by Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent.
In the nationally-watched Wisconsin state Supreme Court race, liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has edged ahead of conservative sitting justice David Prosser by just over 200 votes.
We still don’t know who is going to win, and we may not know for some time to come. But even if Kloppenburg loses, labor strategists argue, this will have constituted a victory for unions and Dems — proof of Scott Walker’s continuing toxicity, and of the staying power of the grassroots energy he unleashed. They’re right.
The emerging GOP spin on this race, according to Ben Smith, is that the razor-thin closeness of the contest constitutes vindication for Walker, and proof that the right can stand up to the labor goons. One GOPer tells Smith (who was appropriately skeptical) that this is a “massive bummer for the bad guys” because labor and Dems threw “everything they have” at this race.
Sure, GOPers will be able to crow if they win, but this is still mostly nonsense. Here’s why.
First, the current results reflect a massive and astonishingly fast swing of support away from Prosser and in Kloppenburg’s favor. In a primary election in February (Wisconsin judicial elections are nonpartisan, and the top two primary victors face off in the general), Prosser beat Koppenburg by 30 points, 55-25. The current results show she doubled her vote share in just over six weeks, while Prosser has lost ground. This huge shift happened for one reason: Scott Walker.
Second, it’s extremely rare in Wisconsin to oust sitting Supreme Court justices. In 2008, Louis Butler was unseated, but as University of Wisconsin professor Charles Franklin points out to me, he had originally been appointed and not elected. The last time this happened before that was 44 years ago, and it only happened three times before that since the court was created in 1852.
Third, for all the talk about labor muscle in this race, labor and Dems were actually outspent on the air by a sizable amount. According to an analysis of outside spending by the Brennan Center, the pro-Kloppenburg forces spent $1.3 million, while the pro-Prosser forces spent a total of almost $2.2 million, nearly $1 million more. You can argue that TV spending doesn’t matter that much in this race, because a lot of this was driven by on-the-ground organizing, but if anything, the race’s closeness would make it even clearer that labor’s ground forces outperformed expections.
And then this:
When Democrats file petitions to trigger an election to recall Wisconsin GOP state senator Randy Hopper, as they’ve announced they will do today, they will be submitting nearly 24,000 signatures — over 150 percent of the total required, a Wisconsin Democratic Party official tells me.
That is a very big number, and importantly, this marks the second time Dems have produced a massive number of signatures in their recall drives. As I reported earlier this week, Dems collected a whopping 22,561 signatures to recall state senator Dan Kapanke — 145 percent of the 15,588 required under the law — and in so doing, they tied the record for the fastest collection of recall signatures in Wisconsin history.
The news comes amid other signs that Hopper may be particularly vulnerable in a recall election. Two recent polls — one by the Dem firm Public Policy Polling, and another by Survey USA, commissioned by MoveOn — both showed Hopper trailing in a recall matchup against a theoretical Dem rival.
Update: The discovery of 14,000 uncounted ballots in Waukesha County has given Prosser a lead of more than 7,000 votes out of 1.5 million votes cast.